Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Nefarious Character

I'm following an advocate for schizophrenia's blog. Her name is Christina Bruni. Her website states that she is a librarian and lives independently in New York City. Yesterday she published this;

I confessed to a friend tonight that it was shameful to me to think I would have to collect a government disability check the rest of my life. I realize I was entitled to that check because I paid into the system however when I got sick I received only $423 a month from the government. When I lived in the halfway house I existed on $100 personal allowance each month after the rent and staff fees were paid with my SSD and SSI checks. Not only was I ashamed to collect a check it would've meant I lived below the poverty line.

I wouldn't judge someone else for collecting a check because that is their choice and sometimes it's out of their hands and they have no choice because they can't work and are entitled to benefits.

Well living on $100 per month I decided wasn't acceptable to me. Now here I am writing this blog and doing a hundred other things like a woman on the edge of her life always pushing herself beyond her comfort zone. I think it is actually a yoga term to talk about going to your edge.

I think this woman, who is a schizophrenic herself, is out of touch with the realities of the disease. This disease is serious and disabling. Poverty is not a choice, it is the brutal hand of fate that many have been dealt. Bruni gives speeches as an advocate to the public in spots around NYC, and when she is out in public I doubt that she is listening to the stories of others who have this illness with an open mind and compassion. Typical for her, first on her mind, is that she makes a good impression with what she wears.

If her mind were open to others she would understand the disease better. She does not understand the disease. What she does understand is how far she has come in recovery and she is filled with self pride. She is blogging filled with admiration for her own successes in the workplace. She blogs about how well the medication works for her that it almost feels like a "cure". She does not understand that she dodged a bullet. There is no feeling in her, when she talks about schizophrenia, "But for the grace of God, there go I".

In my peer support group there are some very sick people who attend the group faithfully every week. All of them collect government disability. Although all of them have at some point worked, either before the onset of the illness or after the onset of the illness, none of them currently are working. I would never want one of the people in my group to feel humiliated because they need this disability. Feeling humiliated would not motivate them to succeed. Their illness is often too profound, and too mind altering, for the type of success that Bruni enjoys. Feeling humiliated because you have a mental illness leads, often, to thoughts of suicide. I know this. I've been down this road.

I believe that the heart of every suicide is a person who feels like a failure. Schizophrenia can so limit your abilities, by causing disability, that you feel like you are a failure. I don't know the statistics on suicide from people with schizoaffective or schizophrenic illnesses, but the numbers are there, the situations exist, the suicidal despair exists, especially in those who have tried to succeed, and failed.

In honor of Bruni I've decided to put her into my book. Not her as a person of course, but her attitude. Her phenomena. The accomplished mentally ill person who believe that she receives all credit for her accomplishment. Someone who medication works so well for that their lifestyle is indistinguishable from normal. Someone who has the razor thin emotion of contempt for others who cannot succeed like they have. To say, "I would never want to be 'x', and so because I willed it, I did not become 'x'."

My character shall be the queen of normal, the cheerful harbinger of good news, an eternal optimist, and, because I am a dark person, I will push the attitude of this character a little further, harden her heart a little more than Bruni's heart, and make her say, "The problem with disability is that it does not sufficiently motivate people to get off it" and "because I would be ashamed to be on disability, you should be ashamed to be on disability."

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